Facility was built to inspire and educate the next generation in horticulture

MP Tom Tugendhat samples the produce at Hadlow College

MP Tom Tugendhat samples the produce at Hadlow College

Tonbridge & Malling MP Tom Tugendhat has visited the new state-of-the-art glasshouse at Hadlow College. 

Constructed last year, the glasshouse plays an integral part in horticulture courses and is seen as a flagship facility to inspire the next generation into the horticulture industry.  

The glasshouse features cutting-edge technology, including suspended gutters running hydroponics for tomatoes and peppers in separate houses, LED and high-pressure sodium lighting, a vertical growing farm, the latest Priva environmental control computers, and fogging systems for plant propagation.

It also has dedicated space for individual glasshouse research, outdoor standing down beds for shrub and herbaceous plant production, and new structures for seasonal bedding plant production.

Skills development

Students work alongside practitioners from Thanet Earth to develop their skills and produce hydroponic tomatoes in the Venlo glasshouse.

The tomatoes are grown on a rockwool system using the industry training system known as layering. Scissor lifts are employed to allow students under supervision to work on the crop at height to carry out all the necessary cultural requirements of the crop. Biological control is also used to control any unwanted pests.

The Venlo glasshouse is operated using Priva environmental control computers which also control the vertical growing farm where students grow a range of salad crops from seed and harvested as micro leaves in as little as three weeks for some crops.

A misting unit is also built into the glasshouse for the propagation of a wide range of plants from both stem cuttings and seeds, with the aim of these finished plants being sold at pop-up plant sales, which take place every Wednesday afternoon from 1pm to 4pm at the College outside the glasshouse.

Tugendhat said: “The new glasshouse offers a brilliant opportunity for students to work alongside and learn from the fantastic team at Thanet Earth and I’m sure it will go a long way in supporting their development.

“It is fantastic to see investment into our community like this. I had a great time visiting the new glasshouse at Hadlow College and it really shows how invested they are in our community.”

Chris Lydon, vice principal of Hadlow College, added: “We are proud to be working with Thanet Earth to produce tomatoes in our new Venlo glasshouse. This unique partnership gives students the best opportunities to develop their skills working alongside current practitioners from a leading industry grower and the produce from the tomato crop is used on site in our own student eatery and also distributed by FareShare.”

Unveiled earlier this year, the College also has a ‘robotic orchard and vineyard’. This 2ha area showcases the latest technology including automated AI management systems, a state-of-the-art irrigation, fertigation and frost protection system and automated fruit picking.